Adam Armstrong burst onto the scene helping Newcastle beat Palace 3-2 in the League Cup during Pardew’s final season with the club, with two assists and a general lively performance where he created problems for the home defence.
Subsequent substitute appearances and a first start against Manchester United though, showed he was nowhere near the finished product. After these disappointments, few people could have predicted Armstrong to do well, even on loan in League 1.
Adam Armstrong, however, responded magnificently to these disappointments by banging in 20 goals for Coventry City.
Gone was the nervous striker, replaced by a pacy, strong striker with a good finish. The confidence with which he played showed in his performances, and he subsequently found himself in the PFA Team of the Year for League 1. The natural step up from this level would be going on loan in the Championship and testing himself at a stronger level, however, with Newcastle in the competition itself, the question becomes a bit more complicated.
Coventry themselves would love to have Armstrong back in League 1, and make a good case about how it would be better for the 19 year old to go another year in League 1, before making the jump. On the whole, it makes sense, it would allow Armstrong to gain more confidence, get a few more goals and practise his finishing. However, considering his last season, surely he’s ready for the Championship?
There are many arguments for keeping Adam Armstrong at the club. With Newcastle favourites for the Championship, the team should surely have no problems creating a lot of chances.
Against weaker teams in the competition, Armstrong could start and bang in quite a few goals, maybe even making the case for being used more often. Having seen the emergence of Rashford at Manchester United and Iwobi at Arsenal last season, it is also possible that most people overestimate the step up.
Dele Alli also jumped from League 1 to the Premier League and he had a pretty good season. Perhaps if the talent is there, then maybe the step up can be made.
That’s not to say Adam Armstrong is going to be a guaranteed success.
While he had a great scoring streak at the start, he also had a bit of a scoring drought. Consider this, he had 12 goals in 14 games, and ended up with 20 goals in 40 games. That’s 8 goals in 26 games.
He’s also not the perfect product, being more of a poacher than a complete centre forward. There’s also the possibility of him being bullied by stronger defenders, or not finding it as easy to find the spaces that he did for Coventry, meaning that another season out on loan might just further his development.
However, to truly understand his performances and not just look at stats that do not provide a perfect picture, we need to look at how he operated as well.
He was an expert at finding space, getting a shot away, outpacing defenders. He provided little to no threat in the air, not surprising given his height. His goals came from harrying defenders, counter-attacking, which he did very, very well.
His stats, and his lack of consistency can also be explained by Coventry themselves not doing as well overall, as they did at the start of the season. After all, a striker needs chances to score as well.
His finishing was obviously very good, scoring a few from tight angles, or outside the box. He outstripped defenders with ease.
All these attributes show that he is a poacher. Considering the difficulty Newcastle had last season, having one around could be useful. There is potential there, and under Rafa Benitez’ guidance, we could finally see a local talent actually prosper for the team, after so long.
It is the Benitez factor that makes me think that Adam Armstrong should not be loaned out. A manager that has shown that he has it in him to nurture young talent, time and time again, would be perfect for his development.
If Newcastle’s team are indeed too strong for the Championship, he could get quite a few games in a dominating team, something that would vastly aid his development. Another season in League 1 would mean that he’d still have to crack the Championship the season after.
This is why, while it could be a bit of a risk, I believe that this could be Armstrong’s breakthrough season if he stays. At the very least, he would at least provide another option for Rafa to have.
And in the best case, Newcastle might have found the solution to their striking options for quite some time.